I’m on to the Denver Broncos.
That’s right, I said it. I’m on to Denver. Not the Washington Redskins. Not the New York Giants. Not the Buffalo Bills. I’m on to the Broncos in Week 12.
My current state of mind is the complete opposite of what “The Patriot Way” stands for. Those guys, in the locker room at Gillette Stadium? They’re getting ready for the Redskins this Sunday. The type of one-game-at-a-time approach that has made the Patriots organization so successful year-after-year.
But when they defeat the 3-4 Redskins, nobody will be surprised. And when they travel to New Jersey and outscore a Giants team that just allowed 52 points to the New Orleans Saints, including seven touchdown passes by Drew Brees, that just means it’s one game closer to the big one. Right before Thanksgiving, the Pats will host a Bills team that they already beat in Week 2 in Buffalo.
So, the Pats will be 10-0 on the morning of Nov. 29, 2015. That’s the day they’ll be in Denver to take on the 10-0 Broncos. Because if I’m a Broncos fan, I’m overlooking the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, and Chicago Bears, awaiting the biggest game of the year.
Unless you’re a player or coach, it’s not a crazy mentality. It’s the realization that your team is undefeated, and the next three games are games you should win. And if the Patriots and Broncos can do what they’re supposed to do between now and Nov. 29, then it will be a battle between the two best teams in the AFC, if not the entire NFL.
I understand some people may think I’m ignoring the Cincinnati Bengals. I’m not. You see, if the playoffs began after Week 8, the Patriots would be the No. 1-seed in the AFC and the Broncos would be the No. 2-seed. But a win in Week 12 matchup in Denver would mean a whole lot more than a first round bye in the playoffs. It would also be about home-field advantage in the AFC Championship, and a much more favorable matchup in the Divisional Round.
After Week 12, anything could happen in the final five weeks of the regular season. But is anyone denying that the Patriots, Broncos, and Bengals will be the top-three seeds in the AFC? Division winners are guaranteed a top-four seed, and whoever wins the AFC South could finish with an under-.500 record. So it’s pretty much guaranteed that New England, Denver, and Cincinnati will consist of the top-three spots in the conference.
Whether or not they’ll be in that order remains to be seen. But that’s why I’m focused on Week 12 in Denver. Sure, home-field advantage is huge in the AFC Championship — eight of the last nine AFC Championship games have been won by the home team. But also, the chances of the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds meeting in the Divisional Round are pretty high, barring an upset by the No. 6-seed in the Wild Card Round. And would you really want to play either Denver or Cincinnati in your first playoff game? Because that would probably mean you’d have to beat both of those teams just to get to the Super Bowl.
Not that the Patriots wouldn’t be able to accomplish such a feat. They have the quarterback and the coach to pull it off. But it just makes your road to another Lombardi Trophy that much tougher.
Given the Patriots’ schedule after their game against the Broncos (Eagles, Texans, Titans, Jets, and Dolphins), a win over Denver would all but secure a first-round bye, a much easier Divisional Round opponent, and an AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium for the second straight year.
So if you want to focus on the Redskins this Sunday, be my guest. But seeing what will be at stake in three weeks, I just can’t help myself.
I’m already on to Denver.
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” every weekday at dannypicard.com & on iTunes. Danny can also be heard weekends on WEEI 93.7 FM. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard.